[The picture above was taken by Alf Khumalo, one of South Africa's most important photo journalists, of a 16 year old Masekala after he received a trumpet from Louis Armstrong. Below, Masekala and Miriam Makeba with Soweto Blues with a commentary from Makeba]
23 January 2018
NUMSA mourns the passing on of Bra Hugh Masekela
The leadership of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and all its members and the working class in general, mourn the departure of Bra Hugh Masekela.
Our sincere and deepest condolences to his family, friends and indeed the music loving African Continent. The world has lost a solider of the revolution, a liberator, an activist and a cultural leader of the resistance movement who opposed and fought the apartheid racist regime. Using his popular music, he communicated to the world about the evils of the apartheid regime.
Bra Hugh used his music to champion the Cultural Revolution to educate our people to hate and reject oppression, domination, discrimination and exploitation. He told the oppressed and discriminated against to fight to claim their dignity. He was against all forms of violence against women and children.
For the working class, Bra Hugh, through his most loved song Stimela, exposed and educated everybody in our country about the brutality of the migrant labour system in the mining industry. This song tells the African continent about how the mining oligarchy in South Africa in exploiting the deposits of our mineral endowment relied on the exploitation of African labour from all corners of the African continent.
Bra Hugh knew that it was workers from the length and breadth of the African Continent who produced the wealth in our country, whose wealth was used to build proper infrastructure for white communities whilst Africans remained packed like sardines in inferior infrastructure of the townships. Bra Hugh hated Apartheid and the apartheid geography of South Africa.
He knew that trains in Africa came with industrialization and the breaking up of African families as they took workers into economic centers to be exploited. Bra Hugh hated colonization and imperialism. He hated the fact that Africans did not own their continent. He wanted African borders to be scrapped, and he regarded many governments we have in Africa as surrogates of imperialist cartels.
It was Bra Hugh’s high levels of revolutionary consciousness expressed through his songs, where he made it very clear that there can be no space in our hearts and minds for being xenophobic towards our brothers and sisters on the African Continent as an attitude of mind and a way of life. For him, all true revolutionaries would not recognize the fake borders created by imperialists in their scramble for Africa when they divided the continent among themselves in Berlin in 1884.
Bra Hugh was produced by the dusty town of Sophiatown. He used his trumpet both as a musical tool to entertain and as a weapon to fight injustice. Through his skilful beautiful and creative music, he used his trumpet as a tool to advance the struggle against the apartheid police and regime.
We remember Bra Hugh giving an excellent performance for workers in one COSATU congress, singing his beautiful song together with workers, Sifuna ukubuyela eDistrict Six.
He had an illustrious music career; he was a trumpeter of the highest talent and a hero of township jive music. The global anti-apartheid movement will forever remember him through his revolutionary song Bring Back Nelson Mandela.
He is loved by both old and young people all over the world who know his music. In South Africa, he is a symbol of our liberation struggle. We must continue the fight where he has left it!
The Black and African working class of our country love Bra Hugh. They have lost a committed soldier of the revolution. He was an internationalist, anti-imperialist and anti –colonialist.
He touched so many people with his Jazz music. He belonged to all progressive communities and its progressive peoples. His death is a painful reminder to us all that what is alive today will soon disappear.
NUMSA General Secretary